A team of researchers from the University of San Diego has announced that it was successful in creating a self-healing ink that can patch up a tear as wide as three millimeters.
The technology of self-healing ink will have many applications, and it would be very useful in crafting self-healing batteries or even sensors for wearable devices such as smartwatches.
Formed by microscopic magnetic particles, this self-healing ink can be further refineded and crafted into conductive materials such as silver, gold, and even graphite. Researchers have speculated that materials fashioned in this manner can be integrated into electronic devices and even clothing.
In order to produce this state-of-the-art technology, the team of scientists started out by experimenting with the magnetic properties of neodymium particles. As the team explains, this type of metal is quite cheap, widespread, and it exhibits particularly strong magnetic properties.
In fact, the neodymium magnetic attraction properties extend to a couple of millimeters. The next step of creating the self-healing ink was to enhance the electrochemical properties of this particular metal. According to the team, although neodymium has extraordinary magnetic capabilities, it does not respond well when interacting with electrochemical elements.
To overcome this limitation, the team laced the neodymium microscopic magnetic particles with carbon black. This ensured that the resulting ink retains its self-repair properties. The final step in creating the self-healing ink was to overcome the particle’s natural tendency of canceling each other out.
The solution to this problem was to actually print the ink alongside an outside magnetic field. This would ensure that the particles are properly aligned and that they would attract each other in the correct way if they were separated.
And now comes the interesting part: testing out to see if the device is as good in practice as it is in theory. The scientists mounted a battery and a LED on the sleeve of a shirt. The circuit connecting the two was crafted using the self-healing ink.
When the scientists cut the link between the LED and battery, the LED naturally turned off. However, due to the ink’s uncanny self-repairing properties, the LED turned back on only after 50 milliseconds. The gap between the two ends of the wire was three millimeters.
In addition to its quick healing properties, the ink can repair the circuit for any number of times.
Presently, the scientists have yet to figure out a way to prevent the ink’s own magnetic field from interfering with other electronic devices. However, the technology is promising, and we could very well be looking at a new manner of fashioning batteries and sensors.
Check out this YouTube clip to see the self-healing ink in action.
Image source: Wikipedia